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Pollinators: Birds, Bees and Beneficial Insects

butterfly & bee pollenators in New Jersey gardenIt’s time for a lesson about the birds and the bees.

No, we’re not talking about seventh grade health class. This lesson is in the birds, bees and other beneficial insects that flock to your garden in New Jersey every year.

And since National Pollinator Week is coming up – June 20-26 – we thought we’d talk about why some of the creatures in your garden are important.

What is pollination, and why are pollinators important?

Pollination is a crucial step in the life of any flowering plant. When pollen moves from flower to flower, it leads to fertilization. Most flowering plants need the help of animals to move pollen grains from flower to flower so fertilization can occur.

And while some pollinators are vertebrates – birds, bats, and small mammals – most are beneficial insects like flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants and butterflies.

These creatures are often what’s known as a “keystone species.” In other words, remove them from the equation, and the ecosystem collapses. Pollinators are the reason we have healthy plants and robust food harvests.

About a third of all food on the market comes from pollinators. In the U.S. alone, pollinators are responsible for $20 billion worth of products. This is why colony collapse disorder is such a big problem. The worldwide disappearance of both domestic and wild honey bees could have a tremendous negative impact on the global food supply.

How can you help pollinators?

Goldfinch pollenator on New Jersey flowersThe Pollinator Partnership offers a number of ways you can make life easier for the pollinators visiting your garden:

  • Design your garden so that plants are flowering from spring into the fall. Investigate which species will do best in your area, and gradually replace lawn grass with flower beds.
  • Choose plants that are native to your region, and that can provide food for both adult pollinators and insect larvae (for example, milkweed for monarch butterflies). If you do use non-native plants, go with ones that don’t spread easily. You don’t want an invasive species taking over your New Jersey garden.
  • Select old-fashioned flower varieties. Breeding in some modern blooms has caused them to lose their nectar/pollen needed to attract and nourish pollinators.
  • You might have a birdhouse, but you can also build a bat house. Bats play a key role in pollination, and also eat unwanted insects like mosquitoes. The National Wildlife Federation offers a few steps how to do it.
  • If you have to use pesticides, use the least toxic pesticides and apply them at night when most pollinators aren’t pollinating.
  • All wildlife need water, so give them something to drink, whether it’s a dripping faucet or a suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom. Provide butterflies with water while also taking care not to allow standing water, which attracts mosquitoes. You can create a butterfly water feeder by burying a shallow bowl in the ground so the lip of the container is even with the surface of the earth. Fill the container with sand, then add some rocks for a landing spot. Add water as needed to keep the sand wet.

Mendham Garden Center can help protect your pollinators

If you’re looking to make your garden more attractive to pollinators, visit Mendham Garden Center. You’ll find bird feeders, plants and flowers and other lawn and garden supplies in New Jersey to help your yard bloom. Contact us today. If birds and bees could talk, they’d thank you.